Category Archives: News

A book from 1874

“Our American system of diet is altogether bad. There is too great variety, the food is too rich, the cooking is often very bad, we eat too frequently, and we eat at the wrong times.”

“One of my sincere regrets in life is, that I prepared about fifty young men for college.”

“In this country of consumptives, [social singing] is especially valuable in fortifying the pulmonary apparatus.”

Read it all–I learned of it from Hattie. It is a book about health for girls, it is not all wrong, and it is marvelously worded.


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La fatigue

I am running a marathon and I do not know when it will stop. I like all the things I am doing — although I could do without some of them. But I like them and I would like them more if I did not have to do each one so fast.

If you have my breadth of interests it is desirable not to have to do things that lie outside your portfolio, even if these things are also interesting enough. I do not have this situation.

Still I am told I look rested, and sometimes I feel as though a weight had been lifted.

The weight is self-doubt, and/or the feeling that one must not do what one knows is right. It is so difficult, after Reeducation, to place oneself at the center of one’s own life. Reeducation wanted to be first, and elbowed its way in. I felt as though I did not have the right to lead when I should.

It is difficult to take one’s place in one’s own life, but it can be done. And doing it means you can accomplish more, too.


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The crisis of modernity and of nation are crises of gender

What the student said, regarding La Malinche and more: the crisis of modernity is a crisis of gender … and the crises of Latin American national identities (especially the Mexican one, with the things Paz says, for example) are also crises of gender. People have written about this and it is a smart perception.

To be happy I must spend more time thinking about things like this. And the man who hired me, the one who has said that literature is “bullshit,” that theory is “too difficult for students of [his] ethnic background,” and that since the women instructors are not people who “had the chance to do the Ph.D.” it is my job to “make that up to them” IS RETIRING.

“I feel as though I had gotten a monkey off my back,” said one of my colleagues. We do not love this man. But he is a cultural nationalist and clearly conservative on gender, and it is interesting.



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Le jardin

Early in the morning it is almost like a walk through the forest.



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Milan Kundera

I woke up in cool sunlight thinking what it would be to be in California or New Orleans with a research day rather than Maringouin with a low-level teaching day ahead. Yes, it is different, very different, and it is false that all academic jobs are the same or that all are inspiring.

Before coming to campus I clipped the bushes, gathered up branches, raked leaves. I rode my bicycle.

I am not a Kundera fan and neither, it appears, is this critic but there is great value in slowness. This is true in all seasons, but it is especially true, I think, in spring.



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What a student said

“I really feel I learned in your class. You are a great teacher.”

I tend to think I am not, or should not be, yet that if I am not, I am in danger; or if I am it is because I have put in effort that should have been placed elsewhere. I am clearly not over all the terrorizing and scolding and warning I had to undergo.

I was constantly considered to be conspiring to do things wrong or to remain in academia while incompetent, or to spend too much time on the wrong thing. It was not that I was in fact acting incompetently. It was that one might, to anyone, at any time, appear vulnerable to accusations of this. That was what counted. For some it was important that you look stressed, or that you not be seen relaxed.

Later on it was recommended to do superficial work and to rush through it. Successful people did this, it was said. But I had never liked rushing, even though I am not slow, and I like to take time to think about things.

Others would rush to grade papers or mark up xeroxes in the ten minutes between classes. I would sit in the sun and stare out at the distance. It meant I had a few minutes’ work in the evening or early morning, before leaving home that they did not, but I was also less tired when I got home and I had my thoughts in order. I still disagree that there was anything wrong with my method.

Most recently my terror has to do with being accused of having inappropriate teaching goals — but I cannot find anything in the literature that would indicate this. I am trying to de-terrify myself.


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What a colleague said

…the first day I came to work here. “You radiate confidence and self-respect and it is though the wind had blown in with another kind of air, startling, disconcerting.”

Now years later a graduate student said: “It is important I not be critical as I am at the beginning of my career, whereas you are close to the end of yours.”

The end of mine. I, who am also waiting for that good tenure-track job.


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